A day before the Supreme Court set up an in-house panel to inquire into sexual harassment allegations against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, the government's top lawyer, Attorney General KK Venugopal, had written to five senior most judges asking for external members - retired judges -- on the panel. The Chief Justice, who has since been cleared of the allegations by a panel of judges, was among the five judges he wrote to.
The law officer also wrote a second letter the very next day to clarify that it was his personal view and not the government's.
The Attorney General said he wrote the letter on April 22, three days after a former Supreme Court employee alleged sexual harassment in her complaint to the top court. "I had written to judges to appoint retired Supreme Court judges in a panel to probe the sexual harassment charge," he said.
The panel was formed the next day.
On reports of his rift with the government and pressure to add a disclaimer, the Attorney General said he wrote the second letter to clarify that it was his personal opinion, not the government's, and there was "no pressure from the government." He also emphatically denied rumours of his resignation over differences with the government. "I want to work for five more years," he told NDTV on Friday.
The Supreme Court's in-house panel cleared the Chief Justice of the allegations on Monday and said it had "found no substance in the allegations in the complaint dated April 19 of a former employee of the Supreme Court." The panel, comprising Justice SA Bobde, Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Indu Malhotra, also said the inquiry report would not be made public, which meant even the complainant wouldn't get it.
The woman, who had dropped out of the hearings mid-way calling the atmosphere "very frightening", said her "worst fears" had come true and "all hope of justice and redress from the highest court of the land has been shattered".
Soon after the allegation surfaced last month in a news report, Chief Justice Gogoi, at a special hearing of the top court, denied the woman's claims and said he was being targeted as he was to hear several important cases.